Notices 2024

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This is not a place for talking about politics. But when events take place which threaten the future of the BBC, and (from my perspective) radio drama in particular, politics cannot be ignored.

If the BBC's audience figures continue to drop, the licence fee will be reviewed and will probably be reduced; it may even disappear.

Output which alientates large parts of its audience must therefore be avoided. And this means that the BBC must become less biased. Its future depends on it.

The sins of the News and politics programmes cannot be allowed to lead to the demise of intelligent speech radio: arts, culture, drama, features, drama-documentaries and everything else for which the BBC is well-known.

Charles Moore wrote a thought-provoking piece in the Daily Telegraph (30 Apr) about his own appearance on 'Question Time' in which he noted considerable bias in the balance of the programme.

I was likewise disturbed to read these letters (which I have anonymised) in the same newspaper which illustrate my point:

    1 May: SIR - Last week's 'Any Question's was a disgrace, which what sounded like an audience of left-wing activists whooping and cheering. The audience might have been carefully balanced, but over the radio it didn't sound that way.

    Please, BBC, let us have political debate broadcast without the biased input of a noisy faction, particularly in the run-up to a general election. (PR, Kent)

      1 May: SIR - I saw the episode of 'Question Time' to which Charles Moore refers and agree that the whole audience was left-wing. For instance, views were expressed that there should be no controls on illegal immigration and that anyone who wants a sick note should get one.

      He said that legal migration was also a concern: the country cannot sustain the current levels. Yet not a single other voice commented on this.

      In a BBC programme such as Question Time there really should be balance. (DB, Flintshire)

        2 May - SIR - I must agree with PR (May 1) who objects to the 'whooping and cheering' of the Any Questions audience on Radio 4.

        I used to listen regularly but rarely do now due to the audience bias displayed, regardless of the location of the programme. However, I did listen last week, and like him, was appalled.

        The Labour and Green Party members were cheered after virtually every sentence they uttered, while the Conservative representative was laughed at on most points he raised - though they were important and he expressed them calmly.

        As the BBC does not even pretend to offer any balance, I will not be listening again. (SF, Essex)

The BBC must get its house in order. Many topics are highly contentious - Ukraine, Gaza, alleged man-made climate change, energy generation, freedom of speech, to name just a few. These are highly complex issues and presenting them should be done with care and with balance.

The BBC's aim should be to inform, enlighten and entertain.

The people who make quality programmes - the majority of the output - must not have their jobs put at risk by tunnel-vision activists who seem intent on affecting our national broadcaster's financial future.

3 May 24

This is now over, and the winners were announced on Friday evening. You can find information about this, and descriptions of the winning plays, on the Festival 2024 page. there is one award

31 Mar 24

Advertising the UK International Audio Drama Festival puts me in touch with a large number of radio writers and producers. The general opinion of radio drama commissioning at the BBC is that it's a disaster zone; it's reduced by 50% since 2017, most of that reduction taking place in the last 2 years. 600 hours down to 300 hours. It is horrendous. The only advice I can offer young people wanting to write radio drama for a living is - think of something else.

Not so many years ago there were many people who wrote significant numbers of radio plays over several decades, and they became experts in creating high-quality work. There were numerous salaried producers at the BBC and a large number of them worked solidly for 30+ years, many of them producing 1000+ plays in their careers.

There are still some people of that generation producing excellent work, and good new writers are emerging too, but the number of opportunities is much smaller than it was. It seems to me that if you're a young writer or producer, aspiring to create radio drama, you need to make sure you have a steady stream of income from other sources.

16 Mar 24

A large number of radio dramas have been returned to the BBC by a representative of a collectors' group (not us, this time). This must be good news. One hopes that a decent number of them will be broadcast in the near future. The rights will still have to be cleared, so do not expect a deluge. And "politically-incorrect" vintage material is unlikely to get through the BBC's filters without censoring.

13 Mar 24

This is now out - please look on the Festival web page (go back to main radio page and click on the link).

12 Mar 24

The preliminary shortlist for the festival is now decided. This is on the Festival web page - go to the link on the main radio page. There were 217 submissions and there are only about 50 slots in the 5 days for listening - so a lot of very good work won't be heard. But the event is a celebration of the radio drama medium - and the number of entries is very encouraging. We all need stories; it's what we are wired for. The listening programme will be published soon.

1 Mar 24

I'm pleased to report that Harry has reviewed a few more recent plays; I hope you enjoy reading his evaluations. Thoughtful, considered, waspish ... find them on Feb 2024 Reviews

15 Feb 24

Marta Rebzda has again reached the finalist stage (ie the last 3) of the Audio Drama Awards for Best European Drama for her play 'This Word', which we heard at last year's audio drama festival. It is a beautifully-presented account of the 'displacement' policy - which effectively meant eviction - taking place in Poland after WW2 when the Polish borders were redrawn. The play described the heroic efforts of the Countess Roza and Count Jan Zamoyski in saving four hundred and sixty children from the children's concentration camp (you read that correctly) run by the Nazis at Zwierzyniec. I also note that Goldhawk essential's thriller serial 'Tagged' is in the running for Best Serial. The Audio Drama Award finalists have been announced - see the Audio Drama Awards page.

15 Feb 24

    Update, 24 Mar: - this play won the Best European Drama Award.
    Well done, Marta!

NIGHTMARE - update
This was broadcast a few days ago on R4X and is now on BBC Sounds 'listen-again'.
Programme details....... It’s nearly midnight and a storm is raging. A murderer has escaped from a secure facility and may be returning to the scene of his crime, a remote cottage.
By RD Wingfield. Cast: John Drummond .... John Graham, John Smith .... Hugh Dickson, Insp Thorpe .... Philip Voss, PC Drew .... Malcolm Gerard. Other parts: Jennifer Piercey, Andrew Branch, Gregory de Polnay. Producer: Glyn Dearman. First broadcast on R4 in Feb 1979.

As a writer who has written quite a number of plays, series and adaptations for BBC radio, it has been sad to see how the department has atrophied and the output has withered to half of what it was. It gave me my start as a professional writer. I am one of many.

Perhaps a good way to begin to spread the word about this much revered though little valued sector would be for the Guardian to have regular radio drama reviews, in the same way that it covers TV, films and theatre.

Moya O’Shea
(.....letter published in The Guardian 26 Jan 24; reproduced by permission - thanks, Moya)

27 Jan 24

I have sent a recording of R.D.Wingfield's short drama "Nightmare" to Radio 4 Extra; this will be broadcast very soon. Originally broadcast 16 Feb 1979; Just Before Midnight. I've also supplied a 1973 recording of "The House on the Strand" which should be appearing at some stage.

23 Jan 24

Monday afternoons are currently drama-free, BBC management preferring to broadcast a repeat of a programme from Saturday. Poor show, BBC.

22 Jan 24

I'm pleased to report that over 200 entries have been received for the 2024 Festival; double last year's total. Amazing! More information will be posted soon. Now for the mammoth job of sorting through the applications. The date of the festival is 25-29 March; venue is the Cathedral Lodge in the Cathedral Precinct in Canterbury. You can also listen online. Five days of listening.

21 Jan 24

Like the buses, McLevy eps come in clusters. Jan 25th (Burns Night!) and Feb 1st , 14.15pm - two new eps have been recorded and will appear on those dates.

The audience response to the BBC R4 broadcasts will be very important to get more commissioned, so let them know what you think - and fingers crossed!

16 Jan 24

I must commend to you the play which went out on New Year's Eve in the afternoon and which was great fun. It's is set in a radio drama studio; the production team is recording its annual Xmas pantomime. The play is on listen-again: Rumperstiltskin's Radio Drama Romance. The members of the production team are played by Jon Strickland, Clive Hayward, Rakie Ayola and Abbie Andrews; the actors are played by Neil Summerville, Tracy Wiles, Lizzie Burder and Will Howard. The music was composed by David Chilton and the lyrics by Gordon House, who also directed the production for Essential Productions (previously known as Goldhawk).

    Gordon spent most of his life as a radio drama producer for the BBC, and ended up as head of the radio drama department. He described the play in his introduction as "a sort of love-letter to radio drama, though being a comedy, it is a far-from-accurate depiction of a couple of days in a radio studio" and the particular romantic entanglement in the play, as far as he's aware, has no real-life counterpart. "I have lifted some other incidents, both amusing and sad, directly from my own BBC experience".

2 Jan 24

It's New Year's afternoon 2024; thought I'd switch the radio on to listen to a play .. and there's nothing there - just a repeat of a programme which went out a couple of days ago. This is disappointing, and not the first occasion that a national holiday has been drama-free.

1 Jan 24

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